Marketing and Advertising
It is no secret that traditional advertising techniques are no longer working. We have become so overwhelmed with ads everywhere – in our digital space, city space, and personal space – that we are now completely ignoring them. On average, human beings see 5000 ads per day (NY Times, 2007)!!! It has made us numb to these messages. Major ad agencies are now shunning traditional print advertising and spending ad dollars elsewhere. It takes much more to get the attention of consumers nowadays. But because of things like social media, Facebook Ads, and Google Ads, one single person can have the same presence as a major corporation with an advertising budget of millions of dollars.
Word of Mouth
Word of Mouth has always been the most powerful form of advertising, but is now becoming even more so. People trust what their friends say, to the point that one instance of word-of-mouth advertising has as much impact as 200 television ads (Nicolas Gonda of Tugg, AFM 2014). The power of WOM absolutely overlaps to social media, where you see what your friends are buying and promoting. Obviously, if a friend called you out of the blue just to tell you about a movie, you’d be more inclined to see it than if they only blabbed about it on Twitter or Facebook – but the principle is the same. So how do you get people to talk about your movie? The single most important marketing initiative to any marketing campaign is to first create a great product – preferably one that emotionally resonates with a specific community or underserved population, like BURN(2012): a documentary about the under-paid, overworked firefighters of Detroit (the most dangerous and fire-stricken city in the country with over 80,000 abandoned buildings and up to fifty arson fires per day).
Big-budget films are already spending big money on social media campaigns, but social media marketers (like the ones at AFM 2014) say that they expect to see social media budgets double within the next 3-5 years because dollar-for-dollar, social media is by far the most bang for your buck (Anne Zeiser, AFM 2014). Social Media will be the central focus of marketing campaigns of the future (Alan Beard, AFM 2014). So how do you engage and build an audience on social media? How do you get people to like, follow, subscribe, etc? Think of your social media platforms as marketing channels. And think of your publishable content as your marketing materials. Your primary goal should be to expand that marketing channel to be able to reach as many of your niche/target market/demographic as you possibly can. We still live in a culture of consumers. Every company today, no matter what they are selling, is in the business of media production because that’s now the best way to get eyeballs(ad impressions). People want to watch funny videos and laugh! They want to read Mashable articles on their phone while they’re waiting for their coffee. Your primary initiative across all your marketing channels should be to produce consistent content that adds value or gets attention by entertaining in a viral way. A consistent audience requires consistent content (YouTube Guide, 2013). Think of who your audience is, what their interests are, what they want to share about themselves, and produce content to fit that mold (Alan Beard, AFM 2014). Increase your visibility or “viralability” by keeping your content short and appealing to the emotions, ALWAYS. Consider what ads get your attention – think of super bowl commercials competing for the biggest laugh. But try to stay away from producing content that is overly-branded; audiences are more savvy than ever, and it’s a huge turnoff when you can tell a Twitter or Facebook post was commissioned (yes, brands actually pay stars tens of thousands of dollars per tweet to promote products). Your content can be as simple as behind the scenes footage, funny outtakes, or even additional content that brings the audience further into the fictional world of the story itself. Example: every character in Gone Girl(2014), directed by David Fincher & starring Ben Affleck, had their own twitter account and would tweet thoughts based on their personalities from the book. Think creatively, think differently, think outside of the box, have fun! And consider giving FREE stuff as part of your business plan. Give people incentive to follow you, add value, add value, add value!
“Good advertising is simply good art.”
(Taschen, The Evolution of Advertising, Peter Russell 2013)
Building Your Audience
The solution is to keep all the rights for yourself, build your audience, and distribute yourself. So how do you build your audience? This is the challenge. Many stars already have their own built-in audience of fans who will go see a film just because they’re in it. But do all these stars have their own marketing channels on social media or web through which they can easily promote their films and get the word out to their audience? And do you have their contractual cooperation to be able tap into that marketing channel? What if you can’t afford any stars or if you instead have a documentary? There are many ways to tap into audiences that have already been built up: blogs, magazines, YouTube channels, YouTube personalities, Facebook pages, Twitter followings, Reddit, live networking conferences, restaurants, music festivals, coffee shops, podcasts, non-profs, radio shows, artists, authors, the list endless! It is a good idea to recruit specific “influencers” who are willing to cross-promote your project early on in the process. If you have a documentary about making indie games, try enlisting the help of gaming conventions, indie game culture stars, and Steam (Indie Game the Movie, 2012). If you made a film about graffiti, build a “digital street team” to hit up every street art blog on the internet (Bomb It, Jon Reiss, 2007). But whatever you do, it must start before pre-production even begins. This will allow you the maximum amount of time to build your audience. There’s no shortcut – it takes much time and labor to build an audience, one fan at a time (Lisanne Pajot, Indie Game the Movie). It is also desirable for audiences to be a part of the production of a film. Involve your fans from the very beginning. Invite them to the set. Maybe you can get some free interns! Ask them how they’d like to see the character arcs and story end, and maybe they will inform your editing decisions (Four Eyed Monsters, 2005).
Once your marketing campaign is full-steam ahead, then focus on making the film and marketing the release/distribution. Stay tuned for Part III: DIY Distribution.
Want more? Check out Part I: The Gatekeepers are Dead.